LOOK: From Joburg, with love! - Acclaimed dentist captures the essence of the beloved City of Gold

Published Feb 4, 2023


Johannesburg - Norman Cahi has a quest for learning, a thirst for knowledge, and a deep interest in his roots and the history of his past.

He is affectionately known as the “dentist to the stars“, but he is infinitely aware of his parentage and privilege.

It is this awareness and his passion for travel and a love for capturing moments in time which have taken him on a journey across colourful Joburg which he shares with his hundreds of friends and followers on social media each week.

Cahi has dedicated his life to oral health care for 40 years and as is one of the pioneers for teeth whitening and cosmetic dentistry in South Africa.

Supplied image.

Cahi, together with his daughter, Chelsea, and prosthodontist brother, Emile, run the Cahi Dental & Prosthodontic Practice in Parktown North.

Most notably, the family has been working with the Miss SA Foundation for about seven years, after they were approached by beauty queen Claudia Henkel, who held the title in 2004 and has worked for the organisation, to provide dental care to the finalists.

His job as a dentist is to make people smile, literally, but it is his love for photographing art, architecture and the beauty of Joburg, which he hopes will evoke a sense of nostalgia.

Picture: Norman Cahi.

“I see and appreciate the beauty in everything – in nature and our environment. I admire art, architecture and getting a sense of the spirit of the community. But I feel sad and helpless when I see the homeless and hopeless. I am deeply moved when I see the poor, the downtrodden and the marginalised of our society.”

Cahi says this brings into sharp focus his privileged and care free childhood. “By God’s grace, I have and will never know what it’s like to live in squalor amongst dirt, decay, destruction, and devastation. I see the faces little kids playing surely facing a futile future filled with fear.”

This leaves him with a deep sense of gratitude and respect for his parentage, education and privileges.

“Feelings of extreme nostalgia overwhelm me when I recall my happy carefree youth. I was born in the 60s.”

During the 70s, he lived in Hillbrow. During the 80s, Braamfontein and Wits university was ‘my home away from home“.

“In the early 90s I took my young family to London as I sensed the rot setting in. There was an overriding feeling and a foreboding atmosphere of a potential revolution in our country. By the turn of the millennium, I brought my family back home – to our roots, to the smell after Gauteng thunderstorms, the African sunsets, the lure and love of our closely knit families where we felt we belonged.”

Picture: Norman Cahi.

But Cahi’s lust for travel remains and when he is home, he enjoys being a tourist in his home town of Johannesburg.

“Nothing gives me more pleasure than seeing the sunrise on my daily walks and drives. Travelling and taking photos are not only a passion of mine but have become a a hobby and a great diversion from my incredibly challenging and stressful job as a dental professional.

“I marvel at the majesty of the magnificent beauty I see despite the grime and the grit, the rubbish and the rot. But the bursts of colour, street art and enduring entrepreneurial endeavours of the people is pleasing and encouraging to me. As I drive away from the inner city and its urban decay towards ‘safe’ Sandton, I’m left with a deep sense of humility, gratitude and a deep appreciation for the life I lead.“

The Saturday Star